Lawrence MacAulay replaces Jody Wilson-Raybould as veterans affair minister
|Toronto Star 01 Mar 2019 at 11:17|
OTTAWAâPrime Minister Justin Trudeau drew his cabinet ranks tighter together in a mini-shuffle of existing ministers Friday to address the departure of former attorney general Jody Wilson-Raybould two weeks ago.
Trudeau opted not to bring in any new faces from the ranks of his parliamentary secretaries or backbenchers â where the SNC-Lavalin scandal is fuelling nervousness about the governmentâs ability to navigate growing calls for an RCMP investigation or a judicial inquiry.
Instead he installed P.E.I. cabinet minister and longtime Liberal MP Lawrence MacAulay to take over as veterans affairs minister on a full-time basis, two weeks after Wilson-Raybouldâs resignation.
Trudeau shifted Marie-Claude Bibeau from international development minister to the agriculture and agri-food portfolio, replacing MacAulay, where she will have to manage the concerns of Quebec dairy farmers over international trade agreements like NAFTA.
Maryam Monsef, who first stumbled as the minister for democratic reform, is moving up. She is now the minister for women and gender equality and will keep that file in addition to taking over the international development portfolio from Bibeau.
All three told reporters they were happy with their new jobs, and expressed full confidence in the prime ministerâs handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair, declaring cabinet solidarity was stronger than ever.
âI think actually itâs a moment for us to work even closer together and to focus on whatâs really important to us,â said Bibeau.
âI see no problem with morale, we ve got a job to do and we re doing it,â said MacAulay.
Trudeau announced the three moves within his existing cabinet Friday morning, all part of a minor cabinet shuffle set in motion after Wilson-Raybould quit as veterans affairs minister just a month after heâd shuffled her into that job.
âLovely day, isnât it,â he told reporters, declining to answer questions on the SNC-Lavalin scandal that continues to roil his government.
MacAulay, 73, was first elected to the House of Commons in 1988, and has served nine terms as MP. He has indicated he fully intends to run for re-election.
Deal for SNC-Lavalin could still be on the table, says Trudeauâs public services minister
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan had been filling in at veterans affairs on an interim basis.
Wilson-Raybould quit the post on Feb. 12, during the still-unfolding scandal over alleged political interference while she was attorney general.
Along with responsibility for military and RCMP veterans, MacAulay takes on the title of associate minister of national defence.
Itâs a dĂ©jĂ vu posting for MacAulay, who held the portfolio under Prime Minister Jean Chretien in the 1990s. He was also once Canadaâs solicitor general.
The veterans affairs department is close to home in another way too â MacAulay is MP for the riding of Cardigan in Prince Edward Island, and the headquarters for veterans affairs is in Charlottetown.
Wilson-Raybould told the House of Commons justice committee Wednesday that she believes she lost her job as justice minister and attorney general and was shifted into the veterans affairs portfolio after she refused political pressure from the prime minister and his senior team to pressure her into cutting a deal on criminal bribery charges against SNC-Lavalin.
Trudeau denies that. He insists Wilson-Raybould wasnât punished and that the January cabinet shuffle was prompted by the resignation of Nova Scotia minister Scott Brison after the Christmas holidays.
Fridayâs shuffle means there have been nine ministers to hold the veterans affairs position since 2010 and five since the Liberals took office in 2015.
That constant turnover has veterans groups worried that their priorities are getting lost in the political upheaval.